Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Musings of an American Minister After Election Day

We live in a pluralistic society, and therefore we all have different views, values, and philosophies. Diversity, of course, is a good thing! And since we have various opinions, experiences, and desires, we won't all agree on political issues. But the day after an historic election, I believe there are some things upon which we can agree.

History was made!
- Once it was clear that either Senator Clinton or Senator Obama would win their party's nomination, it also became clear that we would have either the first woman or the first African-American ever to head a major party ticket.
- If Senator McCain had won yesterday's election, we would have had the oldest person ever elected to a first term presidency; and we would have had the first woman vice-president. As it is, we had only the second woman vice-presidential candidate offered by a major political party, and the first of that particular party.
So, we knew that history was in the making this election year. No wonder there was so much excitement!

And, regardless which party or candidate we each supported, we can all take enormous pride in the following facts:
- A person of African descent (who spent some of his formative years in Asia and the Pacific), whose father was Kenyan, is now the president-elect of the United States! On January 20th, we will have the most multicultural president in our nation's history.
- Four decades ago, this country was divided on issues of racial equality and civil rights. Schools were then desegregated and progressive legislation was passed, and now, forty-some long years later, our 44th president will be a person of color.

We've come a long way. After a shameful and painful history of slavery, segregation, "Jim Crow," and systemic racism, the majority of voters raised their voices and judged a candidate not by his race or ethnicity, but on his promises, character, and integrity. We chose possibilities over prejudice. I believe our nation has experienced a moment of healing. It's been a long time coming, and there's more to do; but we have made progress.

So, while we long for peace in our world, and while we ache from a troubled economy, we can celebrate that the power of democracy is still very much alive in our midst, and that the divisions which have long troubled us are, in some measure, beginning to heal, or at least the opportunity for healing is very real.

This leads to my next point: So much more healing is needed! In this election, the word "Muslim" was used as an insult, as a word meant to provoke fear, as an attempt to demonize opponents. In a country where we celebrate the freedom of religion, such behavior was an outrage and certainly didn't reflect the "better angels of our nature." More healing is needed.

And whereas Senator McCain last night, and President Bush this morning, were very gracious and congratulatory of our new president-elect, the crowd to which Senator McCain spoke last night occasionally demonstrated less than gracious behavior (including "booing" when the winner of the election was named). More healing is needed.

And finally, this country elected by a wide margin a candidate who has worked hard to speak to issues of race, gender, class, and sexual orientation; and at the same, draconian anti-gay marriage and adoption measures were passed in four states. Liberty and justice for "more" have been achieved; but liberty and justice for "all" have not. More healing is needed.

So, members of all political parties in these UNITED States can be proud and hopeful today. And while we celebrate the hope and the progress that this election year has represented, where neither age, nor gender, nor race could disqualify anyone from the highest office in the land and where record voter turnout assured the on-going strength of our democracy, let us be aware of the healing that our nation and our world still needs. AIDS is still a threat. War continues to plague our planet. Global warming is a real concern. Poverty must be addressed. Universal health-care is becoming a universal value. And homophobia still infects our national consciousness. Let us celebrate our victories, but let us also resolve to remain diligent until religion, gender variance, sexual orientation, immigration status, and all other issues historically used to divide us are no longer barriers to equal opportunity and we can finally live up to our pledge of allegiance to a country that offers "liberty and justice for ALL."

Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Monday, November 03, 2008

Prayer for Election Day

Reflection by Durrell Watkins
"…in planning your wants, plan that which you are sure will give to you and your fellow [human-beings] the greatest good here on earth." - It Works by RHJ

Tuesday, November 4th is Election Day in the United States. I try to be more "neutral" than is my nature these days when it comes to political matters. Of course, I have my favored candidates, philosophies, and my opinions on the issues. But as a religious leader I must be present to people who have a variety of opinions, views, and passions; and so I try to not be too polarizing by sharing too freely my personal, political views.

That having been said, I also have a responsibility as a citizen to vote my conscience, to encourage others to do the same, and to use whatever influence I may have to oppose injustice and oppression. It's a difficult balancing act, especially for one with a history of activism who remains passionate about many issues.

What I can do just hours before the polls open is encourage everyone who is eligible to vote who hasn't yet voted early to vote on Election Day! If you live in a state where discrimination is on the ballot, I urge you to consider opposing the codification of bigotry. I also urge you to vote your hopes rather than your fears, and to consider such issues as world peace, civil liberties, the environment, and the economy when making your final decisions. I also urge you to let nothing keep you from the polls.

Finally, I offer this prayer for Election Day:

For the workings of democracy, I give thanks.
For the possibilities that are before us, I give thanks.
For the indomitable human spirit and for the power of boundless hope, I give thanks.
For the Wisdom that is available to us, I give thanks.
May we now be motivated by Compassion and guided by Reason as we make our choices and exercise our freedoms.
May we elect competent leaders who will stand up for the rights of all people and who will work for peace, justice, and equality.
May this and every nation experience prosperity.
May the leaders we choose govern with grace and sound judgment.
And may the blessings of liberty, health, and goodwill be experienced within and among all nations. Amen.

Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine Cathedral
Fort Lauderdale

Sunshine Cathedral MCC is on Facebook.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Hope For Tuesday

I'm no economist. I'm no military strategist. I'm neither a politician nor a diplomat. But I do consider myself in the Hope business! So, I am very concerned when those running for office try to attack the character of their opponents, the "patriotism" or even spirituality of their opponents, or who try to use fear to get votes ("Vote for me and my party or "they" will allow Lex Luthor and Darth Vadar and Cruella DeVil to take over the country, steal Santa Claus from us, and eat all sweet little puppies"). What I want, need, expect from leaders at any level is a message of hope. We need leaders who have hope, who celebrate hope, who inspire hope, and who offer hope. And so, my hope is that on Tuesday, HOPE wins. I hope that only candidates with a message of hope, and a plan to justify hope in the lives of ALL Americans are the ones who win congress, the White House, and state and local offices. We've had enough fear, and it hasn't served us well. We need hope, and I hope those who promote hope will be the ones to lead our country forward. Please vote for hope!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Finally, Can the Mudslinging Stop

I really hope the name calling, guilt by association, fear mongering, politics of division will soon be a thing of the past, considered too distasteful to ever resurrect. I also hope those who desperately employ such tactics rather than presenting a positive message of hope, inclusion, and action experience defeat this election year. I'm ready for two (or even MORE) parties that truly want liberty and justice for ALL. Let them honestly differ about how to achieve it, but caring for ALL Americans (regardless of gender, sexual orientation, religion, or ethnicity) and providing equal opportunity and equal protection really must become a shared goal of all our government leaders.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Seicho-No-Ie founder, Dr. Masaharu Taniguchi wrote, "Praise yourself the same way you would praise others… [and thus] bring out the God who dwells within you."

Within the Christian tradition there are examples of scripture being used to uphold class privilege, keep races divided, subjugate women, justify the brutality of war, demonize same-gender loving people, and insist that only people who agree with certain constructed religious beliefs are acceptable to God. These examples have contributed to violence, pain, and suffering in our world.

I believe the reason we have used religion to condemn, control, exclude, or vilify others is because we have not learned to affirm, accept, and celebrate ourselves. When we feel small, wounded, or separate from the Whole, then we become afraid and even desperate. To feel less insignificant, we look for an "Other" to judge harshly so that in comparison we will feel better. And if we can persuade ourselves that judging the "Other" is actually being true to a divine plan, then we are less likely to be bothered by the emotional violence we're committing. We convince ourselves that we are doing God's will by opposing, rejecting, or trying to assimilate the "Other." We now not only feel superior to the Other, we also have the added pride of doing so for the sake of a Higher Power!

Obviously, such an attitude will create resistance and resentment. There has to be a better way!

The better way is to accept our own sacred value and innate dignity. If we can truly accept who we are, then we have no need to condemn, belittle, or reject others. Religion then ceases to be an "insurance" card protecting us from after life torments, and it stops being a status symbol to be used against those who are non-religious or who are differently religious. Religion is one of the ways that we find community, express hope, and celebrate life; and we're free to allow others to find community, express hope, and celebrate life in whatever way is meaningful to them.

The salvation (wholeness, sense of security, feeling truly "OK") we are looking for isn't to be found in being "right" (while believing everyone who disagrees with us is "wrong"). Salvation is trusting our sacred value. Once we can see the innate holiness within ourselves, the divine presence some might say, then we can see that same holiness in others…in ALL others. Our job isn't to convert others, but to awaken to our own divine potential. When we truly trust our divine potential, we are far more likely to trust the divine potential in others. This is how we can love our neighbors as ourselves (Matthew 22.39; Leviticus 19.18).

Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.
Sunshine Cathedral

Monday, October 20, 2008

Socialism Is Not a Dirty Word

I'm tired of Socialism being used as a threat and as an insult. Yes, Communism and Fascism are two forms of Socialism, and they are totalitarian and that is what makes them objectionable. But Democratic Socialism thrives in Scandinavia and (perhaps to a slightly lesser degree) in Canada. These countries benefit from BOTH the protection of civil liberties AND the guarantee of all citizens being served by universal access to health care and education.

Secondly, Capitalism isn't the economic savior of the world. It is a sin that in this, the richest and most powerful country on earth, there are people without access to health care and who's education depends more on their ability to pay than on their scholarship. Apparently, no system is perfect.

Finally, if you receive (or hope to receive) Social Security, Medicare, government run health care (if you are in the military), or if your large company has benefited from a government bailout, then guess what? You aren't opposed to Socialism when it benefits you! So, why not be honest and say that there are ways that Democratic Socialism can help. And let us not forget the Christian Socialist movement of the early 20th century which included Evangelicals at the time!

So, Capitalism is an economic approach that one can argue over other economic systems, but it isn't perfect, it isn't the same as democracy or religion, and to make it work, socialistic adjustments are often made it!

Socialism is not anti-democracy, nor is Capitalism the same as Christian (the early Christians, in fact, lived a true socialist lifestyle of providing for everyone in the community). I'm tired of Democrats and Republicans bashing Socialism while also employing it in their own lives! Let's stop using words ("Muslim," "Marriage," "Gay," "Arab," "Socialist") as slurs to scare people into blind compliance. Be a Capitalist; be a Socialist, or be a blend of the two (you probably already are). But please stop reducing complex issues to buzz words meant to end conversation which only serves to protect the power and privilege of those who currently have them and who use them against those who don't.

Here endeth my rant.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Regarding Using Ethnic & Religious Slurs Against Sen. Obama

1. He is a Protestant Christian. He's a member of a United Church of Christ congregation. You can't bash him for his fiery former (Christian) pastor AND call him a Muslim.

But, 2. What if he were Muslim? In a country that prides itself on Freedom of Religion, being Muslim (or Mormon or Jewish or Catholic or Atheist or Hindu, whatever) shouldn't disqualify one from public service.

I'm no huge fan of any patriarchal/heterosexist/conservative tradition (and am critical of my own!), but I am very disturbed that being a member of any religious tradition (or none) can be used so openly against someone. So, yes, we should know the facts - he's not Muslim. But I think we need to address the issue that it's not OK to use "Muslim" as an insult or as an accusation of unfitness.

Finally, ENOUGH with the blatant racism. If he were a person of Arab descent, what would it matter? He's a native born citizen of this country, and his ethnic heritage, whatever it is, is something he can celebrate. In the 21st century, in a "free" country, ethnic identities like Irish, Polish, Latino/a, or ARAB can not be used as insults!

Sen. Obama is a highly educated, highly intelligent, highly accomplished, highly articulate leader. Either agree or disagree with his politics, but stop using ethnicity and religion as excuses for opposing him. Yes, the people who do so are wrong about his ethnicty and religion, but that it would matter at all is very problematic.

Here endeth my rant.


I speak only for myself today. I am not representing my family, my neighborhood, my parish, or my denomination. Today I write to you not as the pastor of the Sunshine Cathedral, but as a member of the Temple of Democracy. The spirit that inspires me today is the spirit of justice and the sacrament that I hold up is the grace-filled act of making a choice and voting one’s convictions. The creed that fills my heart today comes not from ancient councils, but from the American motto, “E Pluribus Unum” (Out of many, One).

With that uncharacteristically patriotic introduction, let me now add that I hope that every American plans to vote in November’s presidential election. And I hope that all people will consider the important issues and vote for the common good, for “liberty and justice for ALL.”

We shouldn’t vote for the most dynamic individual (Obama might come out ahead if that were the test).

We shouldn’t vote for the person who has spent the most time in politics (that would favor McCain).

We shouldn’t vote for the person with the most impressive education (Obama would win that contest).

We shouldn’t vote for the person who has survived the ravages of war (McCain would be the winner in that case).

We shouldn’t vote for the person who is the best orator (Obama would be the clear winner there).

We shouldn’t vote for someone just for being a person of faith (Obama, Biden, and Palin each share that claim…I’m less familiar with McCain’s spirituality).

We shouldn’t vote for someone just for facing the challenges of racism (as Obama has), nor should we vote for someone just for facing the challenges of sexism (as Palin has).

We shouldn’t vote for someone just for achieving personal success (both tickets feature very successful candidates).

We shouldn’t vote for someone for having the most attractive spouse (that would result in a tie).

We shouldn’t vote for someone for having “family values” (they all love their families).

All candidates this year have impressive credentials and have overcome some amazing odds. As individuals, we might admire any or all of them. What we are left to vote for is vision, commitment, and a plan of action to insure equal opportunity, equal rights, and equal protection under the law. So…

We SHOULD vote for the person who we believe will lead this country in the ways of peace and prosperity.

We SHOULD vote for the person who will promote freedom OF and FROM religion, and the separation of religion and state.

We SHOULD vote for the person who stands for equality for ALL citizens.

We SHOULD vote for the person who will care for our environment.

We SHOULD vote for the person who will try to provide quality care to children, elderly, and all who need medical care.

We SHOULD vote for the person who will try to make education through college accessible to the greatest number of people.

We SHOULD vote for the person will protect us from enemies while also protecting our civil liberties.

We SHOULD vote for the person who we believe best understands how to stimulate the economy without overlooking the neediest among us.

And we SHOULD always work to end homophobia in both parties and among all candidates.

In the past, both parties have offered good ideas and good leaders who have been a blessing to this country. So, we aren’t called to party loyalty or to the personality that we feel most drawn to; we are challenged in this election with weighing the ideas, the promises, and the plans of each candidate and making an informed and responsible choice for the good of our nation and our world.

Whoever you support, encourage them to keep the discourse respectful in these final campaign weeks. Let’s insist that these candidates discuss ideas and issues and not personally attack each other. We don’t want the person who can deliver the nastiest zinger; we want the person who will help our country be as good as it can be for as many people as possible.

Finally, if you believe in prayer, please pray for the candidates this year. Three Senators and a Governor are trying to balance their own health, the well-being of their families, the responsibilities of the current offices they hold, and the demands of the campaign trail. And whoever wins will inherit a sluggish economy and a war, and hopefully, whoever wins will try to bring unity and civility to a nation that is deeply divided on many issues. These candidates need our prayerful support as they run, and the winner will need extra wisdom and energy after winning. So, hold these candidates in prayer.

I can’t tell you who to vote for, but I am asking that you consider the issues very carefully and on Election Day, prayerfully cast your vote. If everyone does that, we’re all bound to win.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Centering Prayer

"Breathing in, I calm my body. Breathing out, I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh, Present Moment, Wonderful Moment

When times are uncertain or when difficulties are present, people will often complain to me that their prayers feel hollow or that they aren't sure their prayers are being "heard" or that they don't know what to "say" in prayer. In these moments, I usually offer a form of prayer that is very new to many people in our culture (though it is an ancient practice in many religions, including Christianity).

We are so unaccustomed to silence in our lives. We eat with the television on. We drive with the radio on. We never turn our cell phones off. Noise and distraction fill every minute of the day. When do we take the Psalmist's advice to "be still and know that I am God"?

Our lives probably have enough talking, enough noise, enough frenzy without making our prayers be more of the same. Rather than figuring out what to say in prayer, or trying to discern if what we say is "heard", we may benefit from a practice of simply getting quiet, turning off the interior chatter (or at least turning it down), and becoming fully present to a given moment, becoming aware that we are actually breathing, and learning to notice a moment without making judgment or commentary. We may need to simply "be still and know…"

There will be plenty of opportunities for our affirmations (every declarative statement is in fact an affirmation). There will be time for reciting the poetic prayers from a treasured book. We can always turn to incense or candles or anything that helps us connect with our Higher Power. But in addition to these "doings," let's learn to add simply "being." Call it Centering Prayer. Call it Meditation. Don't bother to call it anything. But in a day full of doing, spend a few moments of being…being quiet, being aware, being connected to All-That-Is.

On a park bench, on the sand at the beach, in a comfortable chair, or on a cushion on the floor, simply sit and notice your breath. In. Out. In. Out. There's a thought…don't engage it. Just notice it, and back to the breath. In. Out. In. Out. Another thought…don't judge it; don't follow it. Just notice it and return to the breath. In. Out. In. Out.

If your mind is too busy, jumping around, refusing to settle, don't get discouraged. Focus on a word or phrase. Shalom. Relax. Jesus. All is well. I am in the universe/The universe is in me. I am here now.

Any word. Any phrase. Breathe in: "I am." Breathe out: "here now." Breathe in: "Peace." Breathe out: "Relax." Breathe in: "All is well." Breathe out: "All is well."

Use any simple word or phrase and connect it to your breathing. See how the discursive thinking calms down? See how rich the serene moment is? Suddenly, there is no anxiety about being heard, or saying the right thing. Suddenly, there is only now, and right now, there is this Breath of Life, this calm experience, this perfect moment. Indeed, all is well!

We make enough noise. What we may need is a few moments of intentional Silence. In the midst of all the doing, let's become aware of simply being. Breathe in. Breathe out. You are in the presence of All That Is, unified with It. There is no doubt that such centering prayer is accomplishing exactly what it should. Amen.

Sunshine Cathedral
Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Reflection by Rev. Durrell Watkins

“Test everything! Keep what is good.” St. Paul, 1 Thessalonians 5.21

Last week I saw Bill Maher’s new documentary film, “Religilous.” It was actually a very well done film that intelligently challenges religious people’s inherited assumptions and preconceived ideas. Maher especially shows how dogmatic certainty and intolerance can lead to violence and suffering in our world.

It may seem odd that I, someone who is PROFESSIONALLY religious, would enjoy this of all movies! But my religion isn’t threatened by science, humor, critical thinking, or questions. Maher may be doing religion a very good service by showing us how we have too often allowed religion to become irrelevant or even toxic.

Where Bill Maher and I disagree is that I believe religion has great potential. I love the myth and poetry of religion. I love the people who are in my life because religion brought us together. I love the sacred texts that remind me that our ancestors struggled with many of the same questions that I have. They sometimes came to different conclusions than I might, but they stand with me (in my imagination) as I attempt to face the questions as courageously as they did.

Religion, at its best, reminds me that I have enormous potential and that at the center of my being I may be infinitely better than I’ve ever realized. Religion reminds me that I am part of the Web of Existence, an integral part of the vast Universe, an expression of infinite Life. Philosophy, art, transpersonal psychology, or quantum physics might offer me a very similar message, but religion is the discipline that communicated the message to me first. I tend to dance with the one who brought me!

So, yes, I may be “religilous,” but I think that’s good. Someone needs to offer religion in a way that allows (and even expects) progressive attitudes, new learning, critical thinking, and expanded understanding. I don’t believe the world was created in a week a few thousand years ago! I don’t believe that my religion is God’s favorite and all others are at best wrong and at worst evil. I don’t believe religion should be used as an excuse to justify homophobia. I don’t claim to know anything about the afterlife, and I know that our scriptures are full of human opinion, imagination, prejudice, error, and norms from cultures different from my own. Religion is not, in my mind, the enemy of science, and for me, myths, parables, idioms and symbols can be philosophically or psychologically true without being historically factual or accurate.

I’m not religious to keep me out of afterlife prison, nor am I religious to get wishes granted or to feel superior to the non-religious. I’m religious because I’ve experienced religion as a liberating, encouraging, comforting source of optimism and I want to share that with others who may need it. I especially want to offer a generous, liberating, joyous alternative to those who have been excluded or harmed by the misuse of religion.

As a religious person, I consider myself an ally of people like Bill Maher who use their voices to challenge religion when it becomes superstitious, narrow-minded, or oppressive. So, as a religious person, I encourage people to go see “Religilous.” Laugh when it’s funny. Feel free to disagree with whatever you don’t find persuasive. And allow it to show you where religion needs improvement. As religious people, we may discover that we are the ones to offer the healing religion needs.

Rev. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Divinity Within

Weekly Reflection by Rev. Durrell Watkins

Christ said, ‘The kingdom of God is within you.’ Truly I say to you: ‘within you’ means your true nature, the real [you]. Since your nature is [divine], the kingdom of God is only ‘within you.’ [The one] who seeks the kingdom of God without pursues a dream [and] will never find the kingdom of God…Only when you have awakened to the realm of eternal happiness within can the realm of eternal happiness be manifest without as a reflection.” – Nectarean Shower of Holy Doctrines, Holy Sutras (Seicho-No-Ie)

I’m very focused on the idea of “awakening” lately. It seems like waking up is exactly what so many of us need. Jesus reportedly said (though only the writer of the fourth gospel attributes these words to Jesus), “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Divine except by me.” The author of the Fourth Gospel wanted his audience to identify with his Jesus character. The “I” of Jesus was the example for the “I” of you and me to follow. Jesus was the example, not the exception; he demonstrated the Christ in him so that we could demonstrate the Christ in us.

What that late first century author was doing by putting those powerful words into the mouth of Jesus was saying that the way to awaken to our own Christ Nature, our own divine potential, the truth of our own sacred value is to follow Jesus’ example. Jesus communed with the divine presence without intermediaries. Jesus was iconoclastic, putting no image, tradition, symbol, or hierarchy above his own experience of Reality. Jesus trusted the spirit of Wisdom and Compassion more than he trusted inherited interpretations of ancient texts. Jesus trusted his own Christ Potential, the divine energy flowing through him, and that trust empowered him to live an awakened (or “anointed”) life.

To experience the Mystery of Life (“God”) as richly and as deeply as Jesus did, we must do what he did…trust our innate goodness and not transfer our own holiness onto things outside of ourselves. That’s what I believe “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Divine except by me” means.

As we face a troubled economy, justice issues, violence in the world, disease, global warming, and all the other disturbing circumstances in life, we may be tempted to put our trust in things, or people, or stories, or institutions. My guess is that such trust will leave us disappointed. The way to peace, the truth about peace, the life of peace comes from trusting the divine qualities within us, not from hoping something beyond us will swoop down and magically fix everything.

It’s time to wake up to our sacred value and to become less attached to the illusions “out there,” and learn to trust the goodness within us. Once we contact that Inward Light, that Christ Nature that is already our true Self, then we can share that divine Light with the world. Isn’t that exactly what our world needs right now?

Sunshine Cathedral

Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


September 22nd was the first day of Autumn. I barely noticed. Here in South Florida where trees are always green, and where 90 degree days last well into the Fall, and where I wear short-sleeved shirts year round, the seasons sometimes sneak up on me without warning.

Still, as I look out of my office window to see a gentle breeze causing the leaves on a palm tree to dance here in the land of perpetual summer, I am mindful that this really is a new season and it represents a time of harvest. Harvest is the result of what we’ve planted earlier in the year. The Autumnal Equinox reminds me to look at the harvest in my own life showing me what I have been planting in the fertile ground of my own consciousness.

The habits I have developed have led me to where I am.

The thoughts I have been thinking have contributed to my current reality. The feelings I have consistently entertained have helped create the world I’m seeing today. The relationships I have nurtured, the choices I have made, and the investments I have made in myself and in others are paying off in my experience of life.

In other words, the seeds I have been planting have produced the harvest of my life. Now I get to look at the produce of my mental fields, and if I like it, I should continue planting the same seeds. If I want more of the same, I should plant more of those psychic seeds. If I want something else, then I should consider making different choices, changing my attitudes, or thinking differently.

As this new season begins, let’s examine the harvest of our lives. And let’s decide if the mental and emotional crops we have been growing are what we really want. If there are changes we’d like to see, we can remember that change begins with us and with the seeds we plant in consciousness from now on.

Bright Blessings!

Rev. Durrell Watkins
Sunshine Cathedral

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Connection Through Religion

"When liturgy works…something truly remarkable happens. We transcend our sense of being unconnected individuals. We are lifted out of our individual isolation and transformed into a single organism…" Rabbi Harold Kushner, Who Needs God

I've chanted with Nichiren Buddhists. I've sat in deep silence with Zen Buddhists (and Zen Christians). I've observed Tibetan Buddhist rituals. I've shared Sabbats with neo-pagans. I've worshiped in Jewish synagogues.

I've enjoyed exuberant Pentecostal worship, highly choreographed Anglican and Catholic masses, and quiet Protestant services. I have listened to beautiful string quartets, contemporary readings, scriptures of world religions, and intellectually stimulating sermons in Unitarian Universalist Churches/Fellowships/Societies.

I have observed silence with Quakers, sang prayers in the Taize tradition, and prayed for peace with Baha'i devotees. I have participated in guided meditations, folk songs and show tunes, and listened to lectures about the power of mind at New Thought churches and conferences.

I have been blessed by a Santero (a priest in the Santeria tradition). And I have experienced over 35 MCC worshiping communities (no two alike).

Additionally, I am a graduate of an ecumenical seminary where I studied and worshiped with Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, and Eastern Orthodox.

Do you know what is amazing about these extremely varied religious experiences? I've encountered the Sacred in each of them! The ritual could be as simple as sitting in silence, as dynamic as uncontrolled shouting and dancing, or as mysterious as large portions of the service being offered in an ancient language (i.e., Sanskrit, Hebrew, or Latin). But in every case, I felt reverence and wonder and I felt connection to those with whom I shared the experience and even to the mystical Web of Existence to which we all belong.

In other words, regardless of what we called Ultimate Reality, and regardless of how we expressed our hopes, longings, and gratitude, that which is so often called "God" was always accessible; and sharing the experience with others was always personally enriching.

I'm religious not to appease a far away deity, and not to guarantee some privilege for my soul, but because sharing religion with others brings me hope, encouragement, challenge, and comfort. I've seen it transform people in positive ways, and I have certainly been blessed by the experience. Religion, at its best, reminds us of our unity with all life and with the sacredness that longs always to express in, through, and as us. I remain, unapologetically, religious. I invite others to explore the benefits that healthy religious experience offers.

Sunshine Cathedral
Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Prayer for September 11

The only way to bring peace to the earth is to learn to make our own life peaceful.” The Buddha

September 11th is a date that still sparks great emotion in the U.S. It is a day when we remember that extremists (motivated by religious zeal) hijacked planes and crashed them into the World Trade Center in NYC, the Pentagon, and a field in rural Pennsylvania. Since then, we have heard stories of government sanctioned torture, attacks on our own civil liberties, and on-going military conflicts in two different countries.

For seven years we have lived with war, threats, sagging morale, and a weakening economy. We’ve mourned the loss of young men and women who have been sent to fight a war on two fronts where no end is yet in sight. Once again, we find ourselves learning that we cannot fight our way to peace; or as Admiral Michael Mullin has been quoted as saying, “We cannot kill our way to victory.”

I’m tired of fighting. I’m tired of political rancor. I’m tired of war and executions and character assassinations. I’m tired of people using religion and politics as their excuses to grab power or to silence those who don’t share their opinions. I’m tired of endless discord. I’m ready for people of faith, people of every spiritual tradition, to stand up and speak up and demand that the best of our traditions begin to guide us in the ways of peace, harmony, tolerance, and goodwill. I’m ready for swords to be beaten into ploughshares. I’m ready for the blessings that are promised to the peacemakers.

Today, I wish to honor the victims of 9/11 and those who mourn the loss of their loved ones by praying for an end to the perpetuation of violence that leads neither to justice nor to closure. Today, I pray for healing for our nation and for our world. Today, I pray for peace and for leaders who will work tirelessly to lead us in the ways of peace.

Will you join me in prayer today?:
May we be filled with peaceful intentions. May we be guided by wisdom and motivated by goodwill. May we embrace and live out the promise of peace; and may peace prevail on earth. Let healing love now flow across this and every nation. And let us all again be touched “by the better angels of our nature.” Amen.

Sunshine Cathedral
Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div. – Senior Pastor

Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Day Reflection

Memorial Day Reflection
by Rev. Durrell Watkins

Memorial Day is observed in the United States on the last Monday of May. It commemorates U.S. men and women who died while in military service. First enacted to honor Union soldiers of the American Civil War, it was expanded after World War I to include casualties of any war or armed conflict.

I find myself thinking today about the many people who have fallen in one kind of war or another. I think of the Native inhabitants of this land who died in the evolution of what would become the United States.

I think of people who were enslaved to help build fortunes of people in this country; of course, many of those people died in slavery and died resisting the evils of slavery.

I think of women who had to fight for the right to vote, many of whom died before the battle was won.

I think of heroes who put their lives on the line, and sometimes lost their lives, to promote the cause of civil rights in our country.

I think of the many beautiful people who fought on the viral battlefield of AIDS and who lost their courageous struggle.

I think of those who continue to fight against heterosexism and homophobia, risking life and limb so that there will one day truly be "liberty and justice for all."

And, of course, I think of soldiers, sailors, marines, and airmen and women who have given all that was possible to secure the interests of their country. I especially want to honor those LBGT people who had to serve in silence. I think not only of the American lives that have been lost, but also of the lives of "enemy" combatants. Every person who fell in battle was a child of God, and God was surely the first to cry for each one slain.

In the history of the U.S., there have been many wars, and fighting continues on several fronts. This Memorial Day, I honor the lives of those who have died in any war, and I also use this occasion to pray for peace and for justice in all the world. I remember the heroes, and I wish for a day when we will "beat our swords into ploughshares" and peace will prevail on earth. Amen.

--Rev. Durrell Watkins, M.A., M.Div.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Mythic Hero is Me!

"The function of mythological symbols is to give you a sense of 'Aha! Yes. I know what it is, it's myself.'" - Joseph Campbell

The Phoenix rises to new life from its own ashes.
Moses encounters a divine voice in a burning thorn-bush.
The Princess Aurora is cursed, but "good fairies" mediate the curse so that instead of dying she will only fall into a deep sleep one day, and "true love's kiss" will raise her from her coma.
Samson has super-human strength as long as he avoids all barbers.
Jesus is touched by a woman in a crowd; the woman is instantly cured of a disease she's had for a dozen years.
Mary (like Elijah before her) is taken bodily into heaven without dying; she (again, like Elijah), is thought to return to earth from time to time to help people in need.

We'll recognize these stories from Greek mythology, the bible, children's books, and church tradition. Even though they come from different sources and different times, I believe they share something in common. They show us a heroic character that is meant to represent our highest potential.

WE are the phoenix. We are able to get back up after we have emotionally crashed and burned.
WE are Moses, exiled and surrounded by burning shrubs. We are able to commune with our Higher Power and receive hope and guidance even when we are facing difficulties.
WE are Aurora. We have angels or fairies (friends, ideas, intuition) who help us survive difficulties and rise to our full potential.
WE are Samson, with strengths and talents that can amaze the world if we won't sabotage them.
WE are Jesus, capable of living with such courage, integrity, grace and compassion that people around us are healthier and happier just because our lives have touched theirs.
WE are Mary (or Elijah). Our consciousness is being raised to a place of peace, joy, and fulfillment; from our higher state, we can be a blessing to others.

The mythic figures represent the possibilities that exist for us and in us. They call us to embrace the best within ourselves and to let our true light shine!

Myths aren't false…in fact, they are supremely true! Remember philosopher Joseph Campbell who said, "The function of mythological symbols is to give you a sense of 'Aha! Yes. I know what it is, It's myself.'" Embrace the heroic tales, and let them guide you to your own heroic truth. You are a perfect idea in the Mind of God. Affirm this truth; live in its power. Amen.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Formula For Miracles

“You are what your deep, driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” [Brihadaranyada Upanishad IV.4.5]

We have lots of wishes – those “wouldn’t it be nice” thoughts and day dreams. But some of those wishes solidify into real desires. What we honestly, deeply desire, we make a commitment to and we find ourselves working toward. Imagination fueled by emotion and accompanied by action is the blue print for accomplishment.

In 1829, New York Governor (& future president) Martin Van Buren wrote to the sitting President of the U.S., Andrew Jackson. In his letter, Gov. Van Buren said, “Mr. President, ‘railroad’ carriages are pulled at the enormous speed of 15 miles per hour by ‘engines’ which, in addition to endangering life and limb of passengers, roar and snort their way through the countryside…The Almighty certainly never intended that people should travel at such breakneck speed.” I wonder what Mr. Van Buren would think of our world where we fly across the country and even from continent to continent in only a few hours!

In 1948, Claude Bristol wrote in his book, The Magic of Believing, “…the American Rocket Society has made application to the United States Government for land on the moon. Perhaps the application was made in a spirit of facetiousness, but who knows when some ‘Buck Rogers’ will pilot a rocket plane to the moon? I, for one, wouldn’t say it couldn’t be done some day, for I don’t know and neither do those who say it is impossible.” That was written when my mother was 5 years old! Since then, “rockets” and space shuttles and satellites have made many trips into Space.

The point is, an idea may seem foolish or impossible. But if we can imagine it, then at some point in some measure we can probably accomplish it. When the idea becomes a desire, and the desire grows into a “driving desire,” then eventually we actually make up our minds to do the thing (or at least to honestly attempt it). Once we’ve made up our minds, action follows and our actions create our destiny.

We may be too sophisticated to believe in magic or miracles, but then in 1829, traveling at 15 miles per hour seemed like the stuff of science fiction. A seventy-mile per hour speed limit would seem like a fantasy (or a nightmare) to Martin Van Buren. But someone dreamed the dream of locomotion into reality, and here we are. When my mother was a child, Buck Rogers was a fantasy hero. Now, space flight seems almost common.

Once we allow our “wouldn’t it be nice” thoughts to evolve into desire, and then we allow our desire to evolve into commitment and action, we will find that magic and miracles still take place. Imagination fueled by emotion and accompanied by action remains the blue print for accomplishment…even miraculous accomplishment!

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Happiness is the Point

“The basic thing is that everyone wants happiness; no one wants suffering. And happiness mainly comes from our own attitude rather than from external factors. If your own mental attitude is correct, even if you remain in a hostile atmosphere, you feel happy.” – His Holiness, the Dalai Lama

Some people believe in reincarnation, hoping that they will “come back” as a person who enjoys life fully. Some people believe in an after-life paradise; they hope that by living a good life or holding certain beliefs they will enjoy an after-life filled with joy and abundance. Why is the promise of joy in the next life so attractive to people? If joy isn’t the point of life, then why do the religions offer it as a promise for the next life?

For a variety of reasons, many of us are skeptical of happiness. We think it is shallow to want it, unrealistic to expect it, and we assume people who try to help us embrace happiness are somehow deluded. Isn’t it odd that we sometimes find happiness in this life to be questionable but happiness remains our greatest hope for the next life?

I don’t mean to suggest that we will always be happy. Sadness, regret, fear…these emotions are real and they have their place. But I do believe that happiness is our natural state. Fear passes, and we return to happiness. Sadness fades, and we return to happiness; at least that is how life can be.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace…” Happiness, in Paul’s opinion, was a divine gift. In my theology, no divine gift is withheld from any of us! Happiness may be the promise of the next life, but I also believe that it is the promise of this life. This life is the only one I know! Whatever lies beyond this life is mere conjuncture on my part; but the life I live today is what I can be certain of, so it is in my best interest to fill this life with love, joy, and peace.

Joseph Campbell used to say, “Follow your bliss.” I think that is wise counsel. Let’s not be afraid of happiness. We deserve it. We won’t be shallow, or selfish, or unkind, or greedy, or lazy if we are happy. In fact, if we are truly happy, we are more likely to be kind, justice-seeking, optimistic, and generous. Let’s not put off our happiness until the next life. This life is the gift we now have, and it is our duty to make the most of it. Daring to embrace our happiness seems like a good place to start.

Monday, March 31, 2008

The Truth About Myself

"Dear God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is. Amen." - Macrina Wiederkehr

In his book, Happiness Now!: Timeless Wisdom for Feeling Good FAST, psychologist Robert Holden quotes the prayer by Macrina Wiederkehr: "Dear God, help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is." Dr. Holden writes, "[This prayer] offers a perfect example of how to remember and reconnect to our true, unconditioned Self."

Many of us were taught that we were innately flawed and that without divine intervention we were doomed to lives of despair and depravity. And so we would go to confession, or pray for revival, or beg God to have mercy on us, or ask Jesus to save us from the consequences of our sinfulness. Such theology may have been in some ways cathartic, but mostly it provided a low image of human nature.

I have come to believe that our true nature is beautiful and wonderful and divine. Ignorance of our potential may keep us from being all that we are meant to be, but at our core we remain loving, joyous, beautiful expressions of the perfect, infinite Source of all life.

I'm not interested in saving people from their wickedness; on the contrary, I want to help save people from the lie that they are innately wicked! Salvation, in my view, is liberation from self-loathing, fear, and degradation. Salvation, then, isn't about being rescued from who we really are; salvation is about waking up to who we really are. Our real, unconditioned Selves are perfect, wonderful, and divine. Mine is a higher view of human nature than I was taught as a child, but I have come to believe that it is a healthier one.

Today, I invite you to pray with me, "Dear God [Abiding Peace/Inward Light/Infinite Wisdom/Perfect Love/Spirit of Life], help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is." My suspicion is that if we will really believe in our beauty, we will manifest it more often in the world. As we live in the power of our glorious truth, the world around us is bound to benefit. "Help me to believe the truth about myself, no matter how beautiful it is." Amen.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Easter Reflection

Easter Reflection by Pastor Durrell Watkins

“What should Easter mean to us?... It should point the way to the ascended consciousness…Jesus gave us the perfect example of the Resurrected Life and the [Christ] Consciousness—Oneness with the [Divine].” – Lucile Frederick

Whether with family dinners or Easter egg hunts or concerts in the park or church services…many of us celebrated yesterday the newness of life that Easter represents. And this spring season is a perfect time to keep that celebration going, reminding ourselves that renewal is always possible for us.

I think it is a mistake to make Easter an historical event. It has to be more. The story of the hero who cheats death and is raised to new life is an old and often repeated tale. Elijah escaped death by being taken to the heavens in a whirlwind. Osiris was torn to pieces, but was later returned to wholeness and raised to new life. Hercules sacrificed himself and was raised to eternal life among the stars. The Phoenix would plunge to its death and from its own ashes rise again to new life. Stories of the deity or hero who escapes death or returns from it are many.

Rather than trying to dismiss them all, and rather than trying to prove one of the ancient resurrection stories are “true” while the rest are not, it could be that all of them are trying to get at something true and relevant for us. Perhaps these stories about a renewed, resurrected life are telling us what Confucius taught, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling but in rising every time we fall.”

Life has meaning, and its significance lasts beyond the years of mortal existence. Our significance, our dignity, our ability to cling to hope can raise us up when we fall, and can remind us that we will be raised up after the final fall. Night is followed by morning. Winter is followed by spring. Failure is followed by second chances. Death is followed by new life.

Of all the resurrection stories, I remain partial to the Christian version. Jesus’ resurrection retains special meaning for me because it isn’t just about him. It involved his friends, his followers, his community, his admirers and devotees. His isn’t just a story about a hero who rose to new life…that wouldn’t be an original story at all. His is a story about a common person, a carpenter, a rural peasant who rose to greatness as a teacher, healer, and prophet and who spent his life giving others their dignity back. When he was executed, people still found their hope and their dignity in stories about him, and they continued to experience his power and grace beyond his execution. He lived in them, and they lived better as a result.

Jesus’ resurrection was a tool for lifting up others. As people insisted that they experienced him beyond Golgotha, they somehow found courage and hope in the face of their own challenges. Jesus’ resurrection wasn’t just one more super-human performing one more incredible feat…Jesus’ resurrection was a symbol of empowerment for people who needed to be lifted up in their own lives. And it worked! And apparently, it still does.

An average person with access to divine potential: That’s a story that I can put to use in my own life! A person who is raised to new life after being put down by mighty forces: That’s a story that I can put to use in my own life. The Easter narratives remind us that the power of life cannot be killed, and that significance of a life well lived cannot be diminished. Jesus as an example of the Resurrected Life and the Christ Consciousness is something that is powerful because it isn’t about one person long ago; it’s about what is possible for all people at all times. I hope the power of the Easter message will bless us all throughout this season of renewed life.

(c) Durrell Watkins, 2008

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

The Divine Breath

“Are you looking for me?...When you really look for me, you will see me instantly – you will find me in the tiniest house of time…What is God? [God] is the breath inside the breath.” – Kabir

The book of Genesis begins, “In the beginning…a mighty wind swept over the waters.” That driving force, that Creative Breath, that divine Spirit moves in the ancient creation myth and as the Wind or Breath moves, creation starts to take shape. It’s a poetic rather than historic or scientific image, but it still suggests something
wonderful about ultimate reality. God is the breath inside the breath, the wind inside the wind, the energy within the energy…the source and substance of All That Is. We aren’t talking about a deity in the sky, a cosmic judge, a divine warrior, a super-human…we are talking about movement. This “god” is a verb more than a noun. This “god” is experience more than subject. This “god” is “is-ness,” the path and the journey and the traveler: one-in-all; all-in-one. Everything is part of this “god” and “God” is more than the sum of Its' parts!

“God” may not be a meaningful word for you as you consider the meaning of life. But language is a human tool…”God” is our word. We made it up, and we can make up some other word. It doesn’t matter what we call ultimate reality. The Web of Existence (to which we all belong) can remain nameless or It can have a thousand names. The
search for meaning is where meaning is found; that is, God is the search for God. Whatever path we take, whatever name we use, as long as we are asking the questions and remain open to possibilities, we are in the flow of spirit, the divine Breath; we are in communion with the breath inside the breath.

May Indomitable Hope/Abiding Peace/Unfettered Joy/your Higher Power/the spirit of Life/Goddess/God…the symbol of your search for meaning and purpose and wholeness, be your comforting companion and source of strength today and every day. When we seek, we will find! The search is itself divine.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

He's Not; But What If He Were???

Because I pastor a large church in an urban area, I try to stay away from “partisan” politics in my public speaking and writing. I have no trouble speaking against senseless wars or naming racism or misogyny or homophobia wherever I may encounter it. I proudly encourage people to vote, and to vote according to their best judgment, their conscience, and in the interest of justice for all people. This I do without endorsing any candidate or without publicly supporting (or attacking) any political party. My assumption is that there are people of goodwill in all the political parties and that peace and justice and equal opportunity are issues that Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Greens can all support. So that is my personal policy in matters of electoral politics. I vote for the candidate of my choice, and I allow others to do the same.

However, without endorsing a party or a candidate, I must say that I am concerned about a trend that has developed of “accusing” Senator Barak Obama of being Muslim. Of course, he isn't Muslim, but in America he has a right to be.

In the land that guarantees freedom of (and from) religion, one isn't disqualified from public service because of his or her personal faith experience. When people use their religiosity as an excuse to legislate dogma, then I become nervous and cry out. That just means that extremists of any tradition are problematic; but faithful, honest, humble, quiet followers of any tradition get to serve their country in public service, all the way up to the White House, even as they worship in the way that is meaningful to them.

For the first time in my life I believe that all the possible candidates for president are people of integrity and goodwill. I can now say, “Vote for the Senator of your choice, but vote!” It seems clear that a senator for Arizona, Illinois, or New York will be our next president, and all three of these people have outstanding records of public service and commitment to their nation. So this isn't an endorsement of Sen. Obama. But it isn't fair to attack him for his faith, especially for a faith that ISN'T his; but I'm as concerned about the anti-Muslim sentiments as I am about his being falsely identified with a particular religion.

Jew, Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Atheist, Other...this is America and "creed" should no more be used as a weapon of discrimination than race, ethnicity, age, gender, ability, or sexual orientation. Vote for any of the candidates based on their record, their rhetoric, and your belief in their capabilities and commitments. But please don’t vote against someone because he or she is a person of faith…whatever that faith may be. In the case of Barak Obama, his faith happens to be that of a Protestant Christian…but don’t hold that against him either.

--durrell watkins

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Remembering Loved Ones

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders…and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” Anonymous (Hebrews 12.1)

My maternal grandmother was born on Feb. 17 and my paternal grandmother was born on Feb. 21. Both are now dead.

My paternal grandmother, "Mama D," (in the south grannies are often called "mama,"), influenced me in ways that I hardly recognized until after she died. She was a storyteller, a poet, a teacher, a traveler, and a fiercely independent soul. She was the first and one of the few in my family who took my aspirations as a creative-artist seriously and was the first to let me know that higher education was in my future. I never doubted it. She was stern in some ways, but she was a powerful figure and the truth is the two masters degrees that hang on my wall and the doctorate I am pursuing are probably in some measure the result of her influence. She would be very proud of my academic achievements.

My maternal grandmother, "Grandma," was the nurturer. She never traveled much and never had a career. But she gave me a home where I felt truly loved. I lived with her for my first two years of college and then I moved to finish my BA at a small liberal arts university 80 miles away. Thereafter, when I would "go home," that meant going to Grandma's house. She didn't understand all my dreams and plans, but she did support them. She was the first to accept the news of my "coming out," and she would show great pride in any accomplishment of mine, great or small. I don't think anyone has ever beamed with delight the way she always did when I would come home to visit her. She, too, is in no small way responsible for who I have become.

Mama D didn't understand my gay activism, and she was very conservative in her politics. Grandma was very invested in my going to college, but probably thought I was over doing it a bit with so much graduate school. But even though their grandson became a left-leaning, gay identified, artist-theologian which was probably beyond anything in their Arkansan frame of reference, they both are largely responsible for who I am.

Grandma died in July of 2004 at age 83. Mama D died in April of 2002 at age 85; but since they were both born in February, that is when my thoughts return so powerfully to them.

I loved my grandmothers; I inherited some of their best qualities, and I benefited from the ways that they knew to express love.

I share this deeply personal story because I am very aware of how much my grandmothers live in me. They live in my memory. They live in my character. They live in many of my accomplishments. My love for them lives on. Because they remain so much a part of me, I know that life has significance beyond our physical years. The season of Lent is leading toward that celebration that Christians call Easter. But Easter for me comes early each year…it comes in February when I remember that two special women live on in my life. I remember and celebrate the lives of “Mama D” and “Grandma” and I give thanks for the ways they show me that the power of life isn’t limited to the number of years lived. Our Lenten journeys are leading us to the hope of Easter – the hope that a life well-lived in some way will overcome death. And so it is!

(c) Durrell Watkins 2008

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Mutual Support

“Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6.2

Why are Weight Watchers groups so effective? Why is Alcoholics Anonymous so helpful to people? Why can two friends spend hours chatting without noticing the time flying by? Why are prayer ministries so often accessed? Why are grief groups so regularly attended? Perhaps it is because some burdens are too heavy to carry alone.

We often hold in our pain because we know that no one likes the habitual whiner or the chronic complainer. And, we don’t want to burden others every time we don’t get our way about something or every time we feel slighted or insulted. We don’t want to stir up strife and discontent just because we are annoyed or disappointed.

And yet, some pain is so genuine, so real, so legitimate, so overwhelming, that even the strongest of us can’t adequately cope with it alone and so we finally tell someone about it. Not only do we feel better for having detoxified our souls, but we also feel supported and cared about because someone took the time to listen.

Clinical depression may need medication, and minor bumps in the road may just require resilience, but true emotional agony needs to be released. A good friend, a therapist, a support group, a clergy person who will listen and respond with compassion may facilitate the healing opportunities we need.

Shakespeare counsels us in King Lear, “Who alone suffers, suffers most i’ th’ mind, leaving free and happy shows behind; but then the mind much sufferance doth o’erskip, when grief hath mates, and bearing fellowship.”

When we bear one another’s burdens, they do get lighter, and we are all able to live our lives more freely and with more joy.

--durrell watkins

Monday, February 04, 2008

Asking Liberating Questions

Weekly Devotional by Rev. Durrell Watkins, MA, MDiv

I grew up “knowing” certain things. I knew them because in my rural, southern environment, such knowledge was common. What I knew included:
God was male.
God was Christian (or at least, God wanted everyone else to be Christian).
Heterosexual love and attraction were OK…homosexual love and attraction were not.
Men were to be the head of their households.
Only men could be ordained for professional ministry.

But something happened early in my life. By the time I was nineteen I had to admit what I had really known since I was about 4…I was gay. This wasn’t a phase; it had been with me my entire life, and wasn’t going away. Denying it only delayed my ability to experience joy in my life as the person I was. Accepting that I was innately and unchangeably gay meant that I had to reconsider all of things that I thought I knew.

After studying scripture, theology, sociology, psychology, and my inner-most self, I came to believe that homosexuality is a normal part of the diversity of life. But that means that “they” (the people who taught me all those things I thought I knew when I was a child) were mistaken about the sinfulness of homosexuality. Once I really embraced that fact, I then naturally had to ask, “what else did they get wrong?” What is the likelihood that they only got one thing wrong? Maybe they were wrong about God’s preference for Christians. Maybe they were wrong about men having a divine right to rule the church, the home, and the world.

This is one of the many gifts gay and lesbian people have to offer the world. We were fortunate enough to have to question prejudices against us and learn to believe in our sacred value. And once we did that work, we then had the skills to question other beliefs…especially beliefs that give privilege or power to one group over another (men over women, U.S. over other countries, straight people over LBGT people, Christians over non-Christians, etc.). “The Church teaches” or “The bible says” or “Everyone knows” can no longer be the final word for us. Queer people have the ability (and perhaps the responsibility) to demonstrate the courage it takes to ask questions and to believe that our questions are more important than pre-packaged answers. And those of us who call ourselves religious must also ask the questions that will keep religion from being a tool of oppression against any group every again.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Homophobic Violence Strikes Again in Jamaica

Sunshine Cathedral
A Metropolitan Community Church
Affiliated with The Center for Progressive Christianity

1 February, 2008

According to a statement from JFLAG (Jamaica Forum for Lesbians, All-Sexuals, and Gays) and confirmed by a report in the Jamaica Star online, there has been another homophobic attack in Jamaica. On 31 January, 2008 The Jamaica Star reported that intruders broke into a private home and attacked three men who were in the house.
The men who suffered the attack were accused of being “homosexual.” At least two of the men were brutally beaten and “chopped” with machetes, while the third is missing and possibly dead. The survivors apparently require extensive medical attention.

The leadership of Sunshine Cathedral Metropolitan Community Church unequivocally condemns this recent attack and we hope other people and organizations will speak out against unprovoked violence whenever it occurs.

To the survivors of this vicious and unwarranted attack, we at the Sunshine Cathedral offer our sincere wishes for a full and speedy recovery. We continue to pray for our sisters and brothers in Jamaica and we dare to imagine a day when goodwill, peace, and civility will triumph over human prejudices, hatreds, and suspicions.

We call upon all religious people who use religion to justify and promote their homophobic prejudices to see that the rhetoric of hate and condemnation contributes to acts of dehumanizing violence. We further ask all religious people to remember and share the spiritual values of love, mercy, justice, goodwill, kindness, and generosity. We ask all religious people to lift up and live by the Golden Rule, which is to do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

Finally, we call upon the Jamaican authorities to investigate this heinous attack and to do everything possible to protect all Jamaican citizens from future acts of senseless violence.

- End -

Contact: Reverend Robert Griffin, Director of Adult Spiritual Education & Christian Social Action, or Reverend Durrell Watkins, Senior Pastor,

Sunshine Cathedral
Fort Lauderdale, the Caribbean, and the World Wide Web

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Quiet Assurance

Be very quiet.
Feel your breath going in and out?
Feel the energy around and within you?
Notice the calm, cozy space you occupy when you close your eyes?
Do you remember now? It's all OK. There's nothing to fear. There is no loss. There's just now and your breath and the rich Silence of this sacred moment. Isn't it marvelous? A few minutes a day of this exercise can really turn things around...or will it just remind us that everything is already in divine order? Either way, don't forget to enjoy the quiet moment...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Another Way to be Christian

My friends who are Buddhists, Humanists, Scientists, Agnostics, Atheists, and "Spiritual but Not Religious" often marvel that I am a Christian minister. I am other things as well, but my primary role in my community is that of a Christian minister. Now, to be sure, my approach to Christianity is more liberal and far less dogmatic than some; and I absolutely reject the notion that Christianity is in any way superior to other religions or that Christians are in any way superior to non-religious people. I am by tradition, education, and profession a Christian and I have great respect and high regard for people who practice other religious traditions and for people who have abandoned organized religion entirely. I have no interest in converting anyone, of claiming absolute authority for my scriptures (or anyone else's), or in suggesting that one must hold certain opinions in order to have post-mortem access to a Cosmic Realm of ease and bliss.
I guess that's why my non-Christian friends are amazed...the Christianity they reject makes the arrogant and unprovable claim that it somehow owns spiritual truth and that its members have easier (and perhaps exclusive) access to the Creative Impulse many of us call "God." The truth is, I reject that definition of Christianity as well. My ministry, that is, the way that I try to offer hope and encouragement to people is within the evolving and expanding Christian tradition. For this reason, I am Christian. Buddhists, Jews, 12 Steppers, Humanists, Wiccans...they are offering hope within those frameworks. There is enough need for hope in the world that we can all play our part by whatever names we choose.
I do not want to change the constitution to reflect the bible. I do not oppose a woman's right to govern her own body. I am a gay man and I work for the full inclusion of Gay and Lesbian people in our society. I do not believe that Christians have an afterlife advantage over non-Christians. I do not believe that the purpose of religion is to make after-life promises at all. And I do not feel the need to have anyone convert to my faith tradition unless they believe doing so would somehow contribute to their own happiness and well-being. And yet, I am a Christian minister.
Maybe the day will come when the labels we choose no longer divide us...maybe we'll see less reason to adopt the labels in the first place. Maybe as Christians like me "come out" as Christians who are not trying to convert or control the world, but who are rather just trying to be good citizens of the world, non-Christians will start to see Christians in a more positive light. Until then, I continue to share my witness of a spirituality that is broader than any name one might apply to it.

Monday, January 28, 2008


“You are not merely the physical body that you identify with out of habit.. Your essential state is a field of infinite possibilities.” Deepak Chopra

Your essential state is a field of infinite possibilities. Some people believe they are guarded and aided by angels or spirit-guides. Aren’t those angelic beings symbols for infinite possibilities?

Some people believe that there is a supreme being listening to their prayers and responding to them (at least on occasion). Isn’t the image of a benevolent super-being responding to heart-felt cries a symbol for infinite possibilities?

Some people believe in magick. They believe that candles and scents and images and incantations can all work together to focus the power of the mind or to cooperate with the forces of nature to improve the quality of our lives. Isn’t magick a symbol for infinite possibilities?

Some people believe in science. They believe that given enough time and resources, scientists can figure out how almost anything works, and if they know how it works they can eventually work with the natural processes to bring about improvement. Isn’t science, then, a symbol for infinite possibilities?

Positive thinking, Positive Psychology, Transpersonal Psychology, Quantum Physics, Metaphysics…these are all disciplines that suggest Reality is complex and that we are not powerless in our world. The symbols for infinite possibilities are many.

We don’t all choose the same symbols, the same vocabularies, the same rituals, or the same guiding texts, but we all have access to myths and symbols that remind us that our essential state is a field of infinite possibilities!

As we go deeper into 2008, let’s remember that wonderful things are possible, and the thoughts we choose and the choices we make can give us greater access to better possibilities. We are not powerless. Today, let’s claim our power, give thanks for it, and choose to use it wisely. Let’s affirm, silently or aloud: “My essential state is a field of infinite possibilities. All things are possible. My Good is
at hand; I receive it now with gladness and gratitude. And so it is!”

(c) Durrell Watkins 2008

Monday, January 21, 2008

Reflection for Martin Luther King, Jr Holiday

"And the leaders of the world today talk eloquently about peace. Every time we drop our bombs in North Vietnam, President Johnson talks eloquently about peace. What is the problem? They are talking about peace as a distant goal, as an end we seek, but one day we must come to see that peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but that it is a means by which we arrive at that goal. We must pursue peaceful ends through peaceful means… destructive means cannot bring about constructive ends." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., 1967

Today we celebrate the heroic life of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. He modeled courage. He challenged oppression. He risked and even gave his life for the cause of justice. He not only pushed this country to be a racially integrated society, but he also stood in solidarity with underpaid workers, and he was a passionate advocate for peace.

In the almost 40 years since Dr. King’s death, our society has continued to struggle over issues of equality and justice. Sadly, ours remains a society where Queer people can be vilified by politicians and preachers alike, and where discrimination against Queer people can be promoted by legislatures and written into constitutions. Sadly, we continue to wage war, even on our own environment. Sadly, we continue to drop bombs on foreign soil. Sadly, racism still tries to undermine “liberty and justice for all.” Sadly, power and privilege are still protected while the middle class slips into poverty, and the poor struggle to survive.

And yet, the witness and the example of Dr. King remain with us, and his voice continues to call out for justice and equality and peace. Today, let’s pause to reflect on the life and witness of Martin Luther King, Jr. And let’s recommit to establishing peace, progress, fairness and goodwill in our society and in our world.